Cohen Forecasts Positive China Visit
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 11, 2000 U.S.-Chinese military relations, severed after the May 1999 accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, are getting back on track.
"There's a clear intent on their part and on our part to resume military-to-military relations," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said July 10 at the start of a five-day trip to the People's Republic of China.
"The fact that they have invited me is a sufficient indication that they would like to get relations back on track, and I think it's important that we do so," the secretary said. "I'm looking forward to a very good set of meetings. I think the atmosphere will be quite productive and positive."
Defense officials said the United States plans to encourage greater contacts, exchanges and visits in coming years. This includes joint humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping operations and other efforts to promote freedom on the seas, safety of international lines of communication and peaceful dispute resolutions.
Cohen said his upcoming meetings would explore ways the militaries can work together and develop "rules of the road" for humanitarian, demining and other peaceful activities.
Both nations have agreed to observe joint training exercises and to cooperate on military environmental protection and security. Defense officials said such cooperation is not only desirable, but imperative in the new century.
Cohen said he also expected Taiwan would be discussed. "As on each and every occasion, I remind my counterparts that we support a one China policy. But we also support the Taiwan Relations Act and that reconciliation with Taiwan must come through peaceful means, not through either military action or military intimidation."
The United States has a substantial interest in China's emergence as a stable, secure, open, prosperous and peaceful country, DoD officials have said. China, a land of 1.25 billion people, is a nuclear state, a leading regional military power and a global player with a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
President Clinton met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in October 1997 and in June 1998. The meetings marked a turning point in U.S.-China relations and helped further the U.S. strategy of comprehensive engagement with China, the officials said.
During the 1998 meeting, both nations agreed not to target strategic nuclear weapons at one another, an important, symbolic action that officials said reassured both sides and reaffirmed constructive relations. They also signed the Maritime Consultation Agreement in 1998 to allow for dialogue to enhance understanding and trust as the two nations' naval and air forces work near each other.
Annual defense consultative talks began in December 1997 to conduct regular high-level strategic dialogue. Both militaries have exchanged port visits and begun exchanges on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The United States and China don't see eye to eye on some issues, such as U.S. efforts to deploy theater and national missile defenses, but they agree on others, the officials noted. Both want to maintain regional stability, maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Both are concerned about nuclear testing in India and Pakistan.